wands and evocation


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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 02:12

wands and evocation

I figured that if I was to bring this up further, I should move it from the Ashenzari topic. It isn't really an Ashenzari-specific thing.

Currently evocations doesn't really do anything for wands. Wands are one of the staple evocations tools, so that doesn't really make sense. Evocations is currently slated for a miscellaneous items overhaul that will hopefully make the items it is useful for more interesting, but that'll take some time. I don't think it's even on the 0.9 plan. Making evocations usefully affect wands is simple enough to start testing quickly.

The basic premise of my proposal is simple. Currently, we have multiple wands that do thematically the same thing. A wand of flame throws a little bit of fire, and a wand of fire throws a big bolt of fire. I propose that we merge similar wands and make them throw a weak or a strong effect according to your evocations. If you want a little popgun to kill runners, you still don't need to invest much xp in evocations because the little effect will do for that purpose. If you want to reliably get the strong effect, you have to invest quite a lot.

For the sake of example, I'm dividing wands into attack and support varieties. Attack wands have a three-tier level of effect, and support wands have two tiers. Having some two-tier wands that start improving in the gap between the two tiers of the three-tier wands gives evocations specialists something to aim for at more points in their career. The division between attack and support seems natural and intuitive, but it isn't essential. Specific numbers are also subject to adjustment after testing.

Attack wands have three effects, no more than two of which are possible at any particular level of evocations. An unskilled user will typically waste the majority of a wand's potential when trying to use it, but as that user approaches competence they will get the proper effect more and more often, until they never make those beginner errors again. At evocations 0 and a wand of fire, a starting character will get a Bolt of Fire 20% of the time. The rest of the time, some of the energy is wasted and the character gets only a simple Throw Flame effect. As that character's evocations skill goes up, they get the Bolt of Fire effect 5% more often per skill level of training, topping out at 100% Bolt of Fire at evocations 16.

Characters who are of exceptional skill with evocations can effectively overclock their attack wands, getting a radically superior effect at the normal charge cost. A starting character cannot possibly evoke this special effect even with outside assistance, and even a peerless genius will not be successful every time. At evocations 21, that old wand of fire that has served our example character so well in the past will produce Fire Burst instead of a simple Bolt of Fire 5% of the time. This chance similarly goes up until it hits 35% at evocations 27. When the Fire Burst kicks in, the player should get a message to that effect during targeting in order to prevent accidental self- or ally-targeting. Since the final effect an only be accessed intermittently, it can be fairly powerful.

Example attack wands:
Wand of Fire: Throw Flame, Bolt of Fire, Fire Burst
Wand of Cold: Throw Frost, Bolt of Cold, Cold Burst
(Fire Burst and Cold Burst are smite-targeted explosions that resemble Fire or Ice Storm. They deal heavy elemental damage and leave clouds, but they do not have the resistance-piercing benefits of the real spells. Immune monsters are still immune.)
Wand of Lightning: Shock, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Burst
(Lightning Burst is a smite-targeted attack that hits one target and then chains to nearby targets, much like Chain Lightning. It can, of course, chain back to an unlucky user.)
Wand of Draining: Pain, Bolt of Draining, Bolt of Ruin
(Bolt of Ruin hits monsters in a line with Agony, deals some negative energy damage afterward even if they resist, and sickens them even if they survive that.)
Wand of Venom: Sting, Bolt of Venom, full-LOS Poisonous Cloud
Wand of Disintegration: Disintegrate, Bolt of Disintegration, Cataclysm
(Bolt of Disintegration is the absorbed function of the wand of digging, but deals damage to monsters in that line just in case you were using for combat instead of utility. Cataclysm does the same thing, but then uses a Rapid Deconstruction-like effect on all wall tiles bordering the Bolt-targeting. Surviving monsters take extra damage from every adjacent affected wall tile.)
Wand of Raw Magic: Magic Dart, Mystic Blast, Orb of Destruction

This leaves a gap between 16 and 21, so a casual user of evocations will probably stop at 16 (or lower, if wizardry-like boosts are eventually added) for the guaranteed effect. An immediate incentive is needed to keep evocations specialists going, so support wands can follow a two-tier system that conveniently covers this spawn.

A beginning character can use a support wand fairly well. They get subtly better as evocations go up in that the more offensive ones get better at piercing magic resistance, but you can use the basic effect immediately even without training evocations. At evocations 8, however, you pick up a notably better effect 5% of the time, which steps up for each level of evocations much like the better effects of attack wands. A wand of confusion will normally hit a single target with a confusion effect, and it may or may not resist, but in the hands of a skilled user it may hit all hostile targets in sight with that effect, each of which may or may not resist. At 27 evocations these wands always work to full effect, as the chance of getting the better effect is 100%.

Example support wands:
Wand of Healing: Potion of Heal Wounds effect, same effect plus remove status effects
(Basically, the better effect is to remove poison, confusion, rotting, and sickness as if it was a cross between a potion of healing and a potion of heal wounds.)
Wand of Teleportation: Teleport Self, controlled Teleport Self with normal scattering
Wand of Hasting: Swiftness, Haste
Wand of Confusion: Confusion, Mass Confusion
Wand of Slowness: Slow, Paralyze and then Slow if the target resists
Wand of Invisibility: Invisibility, Invisibility plus Blink
(Monsters lose track of the player after the better effect until they can overcome stealth unless they have Sense or See Invisible.)
Wand of Polymorph: Polymorph Other, Degeneration
Wand of Enslavement: Enslavement, Enslavement and then Confusion if the target resists

Wands get their charges adjusted based on their new utility, but they will probably be mostly used for their weak effects and discarded by most characters. Characters who invest heavily in evocations in order to use the new wands should be able to use them quite a few times before they run out, because they can't just mash 5 to get their charges back like a caster can.

Wands of Random Effects probably wouldn't be true wands under this system. They'd probably be a Xom-pleasing miscellaneous item that happens to share identification with wands.

So… Any thoughts? I think this is worth mulling over, but I admittedly did basically pull the numbers out of a hat. There's likely something that I haven't thought of.

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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 02:23

Re: wands and evocation

I like this idea a lot as it would give e.g. MDFi an extra arrow in their quiver, which they need. Wands do seem messy as currently arranged.
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Vestibule Violator

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 04:19

Re: wands and evocation

The idea of scaling wands is pretty cool, I like that this would make them useful later in the game.

What I dislike is it makes getting good wand effects harder in the early game. Finding a powerful wand of fire, cold, draining or lightning can be the deciding factor in an early characters survival. Powerful, penetrating magical bolts are one of the ways otherwise unprepared characters pare down a mob of monsters too many too mele, or remove the deadly, smite happy orc priest hiding in a crowd, or destroy the unique you can't damage fast enough to kill before he kills you otherwise. If all the wands of fire bolt get downgraded to puffs of flame until you get in the necessary training, I fear the early game gets noticeably harder.

Suggestion: perhaps all wands don't have to start at level 1? For example, a wand of flame would upgrade to bolt of fire, or fire burst (etc), with sufficient evoc skill. A wand of fire though would effectively start at level 2, regardless of skill, and upgrade to fire burst at some point. Maybe give wands an enchantment level, like rods, where the enchantment level gives a bonus to your skill check, so you can activate higher order effects with lower evocation skill than normal? Something like this would keep the interesting scaling of wands with xp investment, without removing the lucky find of powerful lifesaving wands from the early game entirely.

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Grimm, Jeremiah

Vaults Vanquisher

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 05:23

Re: wands and evocation

Be sure to keep upgrades strictly better, such as not to potentially make low power desirable.
Bolt of fire, for instance, is often far more useful than fireball, and as such should not upgrade to it.

bt

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 08:20

Re: wands and evocation

Third level effects of attack wands seem much noisier than first and second level effects. Can be a bit dangerous.
Will second and third effects of disintegration wand kill statues?
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Dungeon Master

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 09:29

Re: wands and evocation

The idea isn't bad, but it needs a lot of coding and balancing. If the goal is simply to make evocation more useful, why not simply tweak the formulas?

The power formula for wands is:
  Code:
30 + 2d(evoc)


For rods it is:
  Code:
5 + evoc + 2d(evoc)


It should probably be somewhat quadratic.
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Dungeon Master

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 09:45

Re: wands and evocation

What galehar said.
Also, the change would force us to rethink generation chances: currently, a wand of frost/flame is just that; with the change, it'd possibly be much more. This calls for fewer wands.
On the other hand, the proposal is also a noticeable nerf to almost all builds (apart from Artificers, I guess), and especially early on. Wands (in particular flame/cold/draining) are valuable emergency items. They help you to overcome overpowered opponents. This would work a lot less with the suggested change. I believe that the question of when to use (which) wand is interesting. Occasionally, there are also decisions about whether to buy some wand, or which wand to recharge.
To sum it up: I am afraid the proposal, while interesting, removes interesting choices in order to make one skill more useful.

Therefore I support Galehar's approach: if we want to make Evocations matter mor,e, let's do it in the formula. (Note: if we change to something like 30+d(Evoc*Evoc), make sure to print special adjectives or exclamation marks for very high power.) There is also the idea that at high Evocations, you sometimes don't use up a charge.
Finally, there is a quite specific proposal for planting traps from wands -- I like it a lot. See http://sourceforge.net/tracker/?func=detail&aid=2579528&group_id=143991&atid=757516. Since that might be far away (it should really be an implementable, I reckon), some ad-hoc solutions would be conceivable, e.g. the 'a'bility to break a wand (Nethackish, I know) with effect depending on charges left and Evocation skill.

Abyss Ambulator

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 09:48

Re: wands and evocation

I agree with mageykun that it would make using wands effectively in the early game too hard.

Probably galehar's suggestion is better, tweak the formulas so that the damage of wands scales up a lot more with evocations skill.

Maybe at mid-level evocations, a wand of flame should do as much damage as a wand of fire does currently at low levels, but remain single target, while the wand of fire would obviously scale up even higher.

Other suggestions that could be combined with any of the ideas already here:

High evocations could make recharging add more charges, or recharging would have a chance to fail altogether at low evocations, making wands a more limited resource for those that don't have the skill.

High evocations could give a chance to not expend a charge when using the wand, giving a zap for 'free'

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 11:35

Re: wands and evocation

mageykun wrote:The idea of scaling wands is pretty cool, I like that this would make them useful later in the game.

What I dislike is it makes getting good wand effects harder in the early game. Finding a powerful wand of fire, cold, draining or lightning can be the deciding factor in an early characters survival. Powerful, penetrating magical bolts are one of the ways otherwise unprepared characters pare down a mob of monsters too many too mele, or remove the deadly, smite happy orc priest hiding in a crowd, or destroy the unique you can't damage fast enough to kill before he kills you otherwise. If all the wands of fire bolt get downgraded to puffs of flame until you get in the necessary training, I fear the early game gets noticeably harder.


dpeg wrote:Also, the change would force us to rethink generation chances: currently, a wand of frost/flame is just that; with the change, it'd possibly be much more. This calls for fewer wands.
On the other hand, the proposal is also a noticeable nerf to almost all builds (apart from Artificers, I guess), and especially early on. Wands (in particular flame/cold/draining) are valuable emergency items. They help you to overcome overpowered opponents. This would work a lot less with the suggested change. I believe that the question of when to use (which) wand is interesting. Occasionally, there are also decisions about whether to buy some wand, or which wand to recharge.
To sum it up: I am afraid the proposal, while interesting, removes interesting choices in order to make one skill more useful.


Jeremiah wrote:I agree with mageykun that it would make using wands effectively in the early game too hard.


Huh. I was actually counting this as an additional benefit. An overpowered early wand drop is an instant win button that makes it that much harder to balance the early game. Depending on whether you get fire/cold/draining instead of flame/frost/magic darts, that out-of-depth threat that pops up is either trivial or unbeatable. A more reasonable threat would just require the player to adjust tactics, for instance firing on that ogre at range instead of meleeing until it hits once and then pulling out the kill wands.

I don't think grinding a single skill to 6 by Lair or so is an onerous burden for the player. At evocations 6, you'll get the good effect 50% of the time, which means the wands are actually already a more useful finishing blow than before, since they have more charges that deal less average damage each. Enough damage to finish off hydrae or elephants before they can escape and heal, but not enough damage to save you from Rupert if you're fool enough to take him on at L10.

This change would also mean that monster threat doesn't arbitrarily change because they randomly found a wand. An early high-powered wand in the hands of a monster ends the game regardless of player skill, and a trash wand in the hands of a mid- or late-game unique causes its AI to waste a lot of time using wand charges that don't do anything.

A change like this would create new choices, too. Currently, a wand of magic darts is trash that you discard the moment you have a better way to deal with jellies. You can freely spam it dry at whatever without 'wasting' it, because it will soon be obsolete anyway. Nor is there ever any reason to recharge it. Literally the most useful purpose it serves after the Temple is to fire it at a wall to train evocations. Wouldn't it be better if it kept up in power well enough that it would continue to be worth more than an empty inventory slot?

galehar wrote:The idea isn't bad, but it needs a lot of coding and balancing. If the goal is simply to make evocation more useful, why not simply tweak the formulas?


Making wands deal more damage at higher evocations is the primary purpose of my idea, but it also does three other things that tweaking the formula doesn't:

* The bigger effects look cool, so the player gets an aesthetic reward for the skill investment. The player FEELS like they made a stronger character, and didn't just get a strong item from the RNG.
* The majority of wands don't become completely useless regardless of skill investment.
* Overpowered effects are harder to get and more unreliable before they are earned by skill investment.

MrMisterMonkey wrote:Be sure to keep upgrades strictly better, such as not to potentially make low power desirable.
Bolt of fire, for instance, is often far more useful than fireball, and as such should not upgrade to it.


Agreed. I tried to keep the upgraded versions strictly better. Particularly, I tried to avoid any risk of unintentional user damage. With the specific example of Flame Burst, it's a diameter 5 blast like Fire Storm, not a diameter 3 Fireball, so you'd need six monsters lined up perfectly to get more utility from Bolt of Fire. I figured this corner case would be sufficiently rare that it wouldn't matter, but I'd be open to suggestions for changing the effect.
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Dungeon Master

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 12:07

Re: wands and evocation

I think you really underestimate the amount of work your proposal requires. For example, since different effects use different targeting, it means you can't cancel it or else you would just repeatedly cancel at the targeting phase until you get the good effect. Bad interface. There's also several new effects to code, plus tweaks to the item generation, formulas and general game balance. For this amount of work, there's a million things more urgent.
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Crypt Cleanser

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 14:19

Re: wands and evocation

The idea has potential, but there are some issues. This would be a great way of keeping wands from becoming obsolete in the mid-late game. It would also give non-casters access to powerful spells.
Here are my issues though:
It is something of a nerf to wands if you don't train evocations.
I think KoboldLord overstates how easy it to grind evocations. It can be hard to grind it without an item that can be repeatedly invoked. Not to mention the fact that while you can grind it to level 6 by lair, there are other skills competing for your attention as well, so many builds may not want to.
Formerly reliable wands can now have effects that cause self harm, and these effects show up randomly.

Blades Runner

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 17:26

Re: wands and evocation

Regarding the effect upgrades - especially the evocation ones - as has been pointed out above, sometimes you'd prefer the "lower end" effect.

What if instead of higher evocation skill granting "higher end" effects on a percentage basis, it instead had two effects:
1) "Unlock" higher end effects
2) Decrease the price (see below) for the higher end effects.

This proposal would work like this, taking a "wand of burning stuff" as an example.
1) Base effect = Throw Flame (1 charge)
2) Secondary effect = Bolt of Fire (2 charges)
3) Ultimate effect = Fireball (3 charges)
A user with Evocations < X has access only to the base effect. With Evocations >=X, < Y, they gain access to effects 1 and 2. At Evocations >= Y, < Z, they gain access to all three. At Evocations >= Z, they start getting price reductions (so eventually, you can choose either 1, 2, or 3 at the same 1 charge cost.)

You could of course scale the effect of Evocations on effect independently.

Snake Sneak

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 17:35

Re: wands and evocation

I just finished a game where I (MDFi) spent a lot of time dealing with lots of duplicate wands and juggling inventory. This recent experience makes me quite receptive to these kinds of changes. I also appreciate the simplicty of galehar's solution to the stated problem -- making Evocation more useful for wands/rods, etc.

How would it be if, based on Evocation skill, charges in one wand could be drained/destroyed into another wand of the same type? Or perhaps any target wand?

Also, how would it be if wands had +/- that effected the Evocation skill: +4 Wand of Lightning, for example?

Could Evocation be used to determine charges remaining upon use if not previously known, similar to how weapon skills work with unidentified weapons? Combined with the previous idea, also makes using an Identify on a wand more useful.

Would it be interesting if wands held arbitrary units of charge (auc) that, in conjuction with skill and base wand power, determined how many effective charges a wand had? So, raising your Evocation might result in more charges available for the wands you have.

Right now wands always work. Would it be interesting to make some/all wands have fail effects?

I think some of ideas being discussed here could be balanced by making wands rarer. I think that would be a positive thing.

Eventually all these ideas lead to making wands much the same as weapons.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Monday, 2nd May 2011, 23:20

Re: wands and evocation

galehar wrote:I think you really underestimate the amount of work your proposal requires. For example, since different effects use different targeting, it means you can't cancel it or else you would just repeatedly cancel at the targeting phase until you get the good effect. Bad interface. There's also several new effects to code, plus tweaks to the item generation, formulas and general game balance. For this amount of work, there's a million things more urgent.


In my understanding, the entire devteam agrees that evocations and evocable items need some support someday. It's just that the job is pretty complicated, and nobody has yet wanted to donate their free time to a portion of the game that they don't feel enthusiastic about fixing. Which make perfect sense; it isn't like the devteam gets paid. They do what they do because they have fun doing it. So it seems to me that a good approach is to chop the job into smaller and smaller pieces until somebody says, "Oh, okay. That seems like something I could finish pretty quickly, and it'll be worth it when I'm done." Then the job is smaller for the next person, and eventually the job is done!

By the way, is the Crawl code for the various effects so obfuscatory that you can't make a new wand effect by gouging out the Fire Storm code, tacking it in over by wands, and pre-emptively whacking it a few times with the nerf stick? I did try to stick to effects that are similar to existing effects. Nothing wrong with recycling code.

Anyway, if the whole wand proposal is going too far, I'm perfectly content with smaller steps. How about we just drop the third tier of effect? That's really a super-late-endgame thing anyway due to the high skill levels involved, so the overwhelming majority of games wouldn't be affected even if building evocations did become more viable. Two power levels from each wand, and you get a better chance of getting the superior effect as your evocations go up. The starting chances can all be the same, or perhaps weaker wands like Magic Dart can start with a higher, say 40% chance of getting the Mystic Blast effect.

Tiber wrote:It is something of a nerf to wands if you don't train evocations.
I think KoboldLord overstates how easy it to grind evocations. It can be hard to grind it without an item that can be repeatedly invoked. Not to mention the fact that while you can grind it to level 6 by lair, there are other skills competing for your attention as well, so many builds may not want to.


Yes, it does come as a nerf to character who won't train wand-using skill. But sometimes to make a strategy more viable, you need to nerf the alternatives. Remember the heavy armor nerf? Some of the original nerfs were reverted, but the final change was actually to take away even more sources of AC. Because AC was harder to get without heavy armor, it became more valuable. You couldn't combine the bonuses of heavy armor with the perks of light armor any more, so it stopped being the obviously preferable choice to do just that.

Similarly, why would you ever invest in evocations in the early game of the current build? A wand of fire will produce an awesome Bolt of Fire to devastate your enemies every time even with 0 evocations, and a wand of flame will be absolutely rubbish by the time you hit Lair even if you've wizmoded up 27 evocations. Of all elements of the early game, only Nemelex gives any support at all to evocations until rods and elemental staves start coming into play, so unless you're following that one specific deity you're going to be victory dancing evocations from 0 to 15 in one shot because there's absolutely nothing in between.

I think it's eminently fair that you shouldn't get all the best evokable effects if you are unwilling to train the skill to support that.

JeffQzyt wrote:What if instead of higher evocation skill granting "higher end" effects on a percentage basis, it instead had two effects:
1) "Unlock" higher end effects
2) Decrease the price (see below) for the higher end effects.


Well, this might be good for rods or a new class of evokable items, but I wanted to make wands more interesting to use while retaining the simplicity of their interface. Evoke the wand, pick a target, profit. Giving the user a choice of effects would require a submenu, which suddenly significantly increases the number of keypresses required to use it.

ohmi wrote:Could Evocation be used to determine charges remaining upon use if not previously known, similar to how weapon skills work with unidentified weapons? Combined with the previous idea, also makes using an Identify on a wand more useful.


It does. Sometimes it takes a few zaps, but if you have some skill you'll get the exact number of charges eventually.

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Post Wednesday, 4th May 2011, 14:38

Re: wands and evocation

ohmi wrote:I just finished a game where I (MDFi) spent a lot of time dealing with lots of duplicate wands and juggling inventory.

How would it be if, based on Evocation skill, charges in one wand could be drained/destroyed into another wand of the same type? Or perhaps any target wand?


Yes, some way to merge the dublicate wands would be nice.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Wednesday, 4th May 2011, 15:50

Re: wands and evocation

Perhaps that could be an Artificer ability.

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Post Wednesday, 4th May 2011, 16:11

Re: wands and evocation

Grimm wrote:Perhaps that could be an Artificer ability.


Starting job unique skills are counter to Crawl philosophy, right? Could be tied to a certain level of Evocation skill, though. Since artificers should theoretically have and use wands more than others, it would be a beneficial perk.

Other potential high-evo skill based perks (besides merging duplicate wands):
1) Increase the effective capacity of a wand (i.e. increase the max number of charges)
2) Increase the effectiveness of a scroll of charging (i.e. bonus to number of charges added)
3) Perhaps a Vehumet-like increase to evoked effects range/power (of course, this would probably mostly duplicate the above mentioned power scaling effects.)
4) Ability to drain charges from wands to increase personal mana reservoir (not total MP). Given the overall scarcity of wands, this would seem to be of limited utility.
5) As above, but to recharge a rod instead.
6) Transfer charges from one wand to another (even of different types)
7) Ability to refill a wand/rod from personal mana, either draining from pool or reducing max MP. Note that this overlaps with the DD ability, so it's somewhat iffy unless that changes somehow.

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